Mello, 2008 - Developmental Psychology 2008 Vol 44 No 4...

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Gender Variation in Developmental Trajectories of Educational and Occupational Expectations and Attainment From Adolescence to Adulthood Zena R. Mello University of California, Berkeley Adolescents’ future expectations are a potentially important precursor of adult attainment and may illuminate how males and females vary in schooling and work. Thus, this longitudinal study examined gender variation in developmental trajectories of educational and occupational expectations from ado- lescence to adulthood and in connection to corresponding adult attainment. National data (NELS:88) including individuals aged 14 to 26 and hierarchical linear modeling analyses yielded several findings: Males and females had similar developmental trajectories of educational expectations from adolescence to adulthood with the sample average expecting to attend college. Probabilities of expecting a profes- sional occupation were lower for males than females. Adolescent educational and occupational expec- tations predicted corresponding attainment in adulthood, although the relationship varied by gender. Males who reported high occupational expectations in adolescence had higher occupational attainment in adulthood compared to males with low occupational expectations, whereas females’ adult occupational attainment did not vary by their adolescent occupational expectations. Gender variation in expectations and attainment is discussed in light of historical changes, and future directions of research are proposed. Keywords: adolescence, educational and occupational expectations and attainment, gender Adolescents’ educational and occupational expectations are a potentially important precursor of corresponding attainment in adulthood. Investigating how expectations develop through ado- lescence and into adulthood by gender may elucidate the process by which males and females vary in education and occupation. Educational and occupational expectations refer to the anticipa- tion of attainment in school and work. Researchers offering per- spectives on expectations and gender variation have discussed how gendered stereotypes (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002) and perceptions of barriers (Lent, Hackett, & Brown, 2000) may influence the antic- ipation of completed schooling and work for males and females. Studies with individuals across the life span provide support for these assertions including how parental gendered attitudes shape expectations of children and adolescents (Eccles & Wigfield, 2002; Jacobs & Eccles, 1992) and how females report more barriers than males, among college students (e.g., McWhirter, 1997). However, extant research has yet to examine longitudinal data on gender variation in expectations from adolescence to adulthood. Further, with few exceptions (Schoon, 2001), there has been limited research linking expectations in adolescence to actual attainment in adulthood. Thus, this study sought to extend re- searchers’ knowledge of this topic by generating developmental trajectories of males’ and females’ educational and occupational
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